The science and facts related to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are not definitive. Scientists have many questions about what the research is revealing. What legitimate scientists do agree on is the need for more research. They are concerned about some of the questions it is raising.
Unfortunately, not everyone appears to be interested in objective investigation.
Sweet Surprise is a website sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association (CRA).
This organization represents the interests of the industries that use corn to manufacture a variety of products including sweeteners, corn oil, ethanol and feed products. It is reasonable to expect they will do their best to represent their industry in a positive light. Ultimately, it is money – a lot of money – that drives the engine of their efforts of obfuscation.
Perhaps the most revealing thing about the Sweet Surprise website is that it is so one-sided. According to them, all the negative concerns are “wrong.” Interestingly enough, the page addressing myths saves the subject of subsidies for last, but that is deceiving. In order of importance, it would be first because the truth is, that is what drives the rest of the responses.
High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Subsidies
The website page that refutes the “myths” about high fructose corn syrup is misleading at the very least. No, HFCS is not a directly protected commodity. However, the main ingredient is. Corn is the most heavily subsidized crop in the U.S. Internet research reveals that the corn subsidy is the reason so much corn is planted and used.
The effort to reduce corn prices has been fueled by the desire to create a substitute for fossil fuels. Ethanol is seen by some as the solution. Even though fuel created with corn as the base is not as beneficial as those using other crops, Congress chose corn to subsidize and protect.
Regardless of what is being manufactured, given a choice, wouldn’t it be smart to select a main ingredient that costs less? That is what the corn subsidy does. It makes it possible to create an end product at a lower cost. To many, the corn subsidy was a way of getting the ethanol industry started.
Those interested in producing high fructose corn syrup saw a golden opportunity in the lower corn prices. Stating that government supports help “corn growers, not corn refiners” is, at best, disingenuous. The HFCS industry cannot reasonably deny that it profited because of the low corn prices.
Ironically, the subsidies that promoted the growth of the HFCS industry will be what ultimately destroys it. As the ethanol industry declines as a result of the expiration of corn subsidies that are related to the fact that ethanol has issues that cannot be resolved, corn will no longer be the attractive commodity it once was. HFCS will no longer be able to tag along for the cheap ride.
Sugar Coating the Truth
With respect to the relationship between the government and sugar, it is far more complicated than the HFCS industry would have you believe. Sugar tariffs have artificially raised the price of sugar in order to protect a segment of the sugar industry. Artificially high prices for sugar and low corn prices as a result of the corn subsidy have made the manufacture of high fructose corn syrup a no-brainer.
Is There a Difference Between Sugar and HFCS?
The Sweet Surprise website, on the page which purports to dispel common myths about HFCS drives home the point, again and again, that sugar and HFCS are “basically the same.” According to studies done by Princeton, it is not true. There are significant differences between the two. However, the ramifications of the facts are not clear.
Both sugar and HFCS contain fructose and glucose but with a twist. Sucrose contains the same amount of fructose and sucrose. In fact, the two molecules appear as pairs – one sucrose and one fructose molecule are bound to each other. This means that in order for the fructose to be used by the body, it must go through one more metabolic transformation before the body can use it.
This is not true for high fructose corn syrup. There is an imbalance which has fructose molecules outnumbering glucose molecules. Higher saccharides make up the remaining unspoken for fraction. Another interesting fact is that the process used to create HFCS leaves the fructose molecules unbound.
In other words, the fructose and sucrose molecules don’t have the same relationship they have in sugar. That means the fructose is ready for immediate use.
Do the Differences Between Sugar and HFCS Mean Anything?
While it is clear that high fructose corn syrup and the American climb up the scales are related in some way, there is no definitive relationship at this point. However, only those willing to wear blinders can avoid recognizing the potential for a direct relationship. Research at Princeton shows some disquieting observations. For instance, rats given HFCS seem to put on weight more uniformly than those given similar amounts of sucrose.
For now, take the time to read the food labels for the products you buy. You will be surprised to learn how ubiquitous the substance is. See where high fructose corn syrup appears in the list of ingredients. The closer to the beginning it is shown, the more there is in the food you are considering purchasing. When you start to read, you might feel moved to change your eating habits and your life for the better.
Fact: At the very least, reducing your consumption of high fructose corn syrup couldn’t make it worse!
Paula Manfield is an online instructor with the College City. She loves to cook and garden and prefers serving all natural foods to her family.